Located in the Dogpatch, Aina SF does a Hawaiian-style brunch in a small, rustic space. Expect a wait – while they offer reservations for dinner, brunch is walk-ins only. Service doesn’t start until 9am, but if you want to spend as little time as possible in line, it doesn’t hurt to get there before then.
I should pause here to mention that in a significant shift for Brunch Club, the editorial staff (okay fine it’s just me) has decided to start including non-bottomless brunches in our reviews. This is because we’ve exhausted most of the bottomless brunches out there (but don’t worry, we’ll get to the rest), as well as because starting every Saturday off with a lot of booze was really dampening our ability to do anything else with the rest of the weekend. Luckily Aina SF is a great start to the non-bottomless brunches, because it’s delicious and worth the wait. Also, a quick reminder that if you are searching for bottomless, the list can always be found here.
Divine. Everything is very light and fresh, even the meats. I had the Kalua pork belly, and the pork was incredibly tender. A couple of poached eggs and rice, along with a nice assortment of vegetables, really rounded things out for a satisfying meal. One of my companions had the Portuguese sausage hash, and even that was nice and light – the sausage is hearty, but it pairs well with brussels sprouts and sunny side up eggs.
Their Spam musubi is a special that’s definitely worth trying. Don’t worry, it’s not true Spam out of a can – they make their own Spam-style meat that’s much better than the real thing and paired with kimchi, rice and just the right set of spices. The malasadas (Portuguese style donuts) are also amazing – light, puffy donuts filled with guava custard and coated with coconut sugar really melt in your mouth.
Aina SF has a small space with plenty of wait staff for the size, so we were well attended to. Our waiter gave us a little history and background on the restaurant initially, which was nice, and he was happy to make recommendations (which were all great, though I suspect anything he said would have been). Everything came out quickly, and it was a generally pleasant dining experience.
As mentioned, it’s a small place, but very nice. Lots of wood (which they imported from Hawaii) and a generally rustic feel that somehow also manages to seem tropical, at least when it’s sunny outside. The one downside is it can definitely get a bit loud, as the tables are crowded fairly close in there. There’s also no space inside to wait, so best to go on a nice day when standing outside for an hour or more is a pleasant experience.
This is also very definitely not a good place for large groups – with the lack of reservations and small tables, it would take an eternity to get seated, if they’d have you at all.
The wait is the big downside here – you’ll probably be in line for Aina SF for an hour or more. That said, it’s a great date spot (maybe not for a first date, though… if the conversation dries up it’s going to be a long, akward wait). The food is fantastic, the wait staff is delightful, and a morning at Aina SF is definitely the right way to start off your day.